Far-right Freedom Party launches nation-wide anti-Temelin petition

Temelin nuclear power plant

Austria's far-right Freedom Party launched an official nation-wide petition on Monday, calling for the Czech Republic's membership of the European Union to be vetoed if Prague refuses to shut down its new Temelin nuclear power plant. The petition is non-binding - the issue must be discussed in the Austrian parliament if more than 100,000 people sign it, but that's as far as it goes. The Freedom Party - a junior partner in the Austrian governing coalition - seems increasingly isolated over the veto issue, although there are reports that up to 900,000 people could end up signing the petition over the next seven days. So if it does enjoy mass support, what happens next? A question I put earlier to Kerry Skyring from Radio Austria International. By Rob Cameron

Temelin nuclear power plant, photo CTK
"In a political sense that would make it more important. What that would do is perhaps create greater divisions in the ruling coalition, between the Freedom Party and the People's Party. But it still will not mean any great difference officially because within the parliament the only party that is supporting the petition is the Freedom Party."

Right, so it's very much the case that any pressure created by this petition will be on the domestic Austrian political level. But Mr Haider, the former leader of the Freedom Party, he says if Temelin isn't shut down there'll be no EU entry for the Czech Republic. Surely these are hollow words? They don't actually mean anything.

"It's hard to see how he could carry out that threat. I mean one way is simply to collapse the coalition over it, which would have some consequences then, perhaps a new election, perhaps a reforming of alliances, we may see the Social Democrats and the Greens come to power or something like that. But these would be fairly dramatic consequences. It may be that Mr Haider, who still wields an enormous amount of influence in the party, is willing to go that far on this issue. It's still a long way away though from being able to carry out that threat, of vetoing the Czech entry into the European Union. It's still very difficult to see how he could carry out that threat."

Right, well Kerry on your way to work this morning did you get any sort of feeling of the atmosphere in Vienna? Are people talking about this, is it making the papers?

Mr Haider, photo CTK
"Yes it is. It's front-page news in every newspaper today, and all the major electronic media are carrying it as well. Also, I might add, the most popular newspaper in the country - the tabloid Kronen Zeitung - is behind the petition, is really promoting the petition, and they've been parading a series of personalities, TV and sporting personalities, on their front pages, each saying "I will be signing the petition against Temelin", so it has a lot of support from that area of the media. Most of the others, the other daily newspapers, tend to be quite sceptical about it following perhaps the People's Party line - being against Temelin but also against this "veto petition"."